It was much more than just a joint practice between the Jaguars and Patriots in New England on Monday. It was an event.
A record crowd of more than 20,000 fans was at the Patriots practice fields to see 2 Â½ hours of two-team workouts. Some of it boring but some of it scintillating. Most of the latter happened when Tom Brady had the ball in his hands.
Much like in games, Brady was in full control, hitting open receivers, hitting covered receivers and even hitting guys who were not open. Short, medium, deep, it didn’t matter. The ball was where it was supposed to be. On time and fast.
Still, the Jaguars might not be in the category of the World Champion Patriots but they deported themselves pretty well in their first joint practice of the year.
“Like I said before, there are so many positives coming to work with another team,” Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said after practice. “I felt like we got a great day done today. I think when you practice like this, obviously against a great football team, then it is going to make our team better. That really was the goal coming up here.”
As you’ve no doubt seen, the Jaguars motto for this year is #WINTODAY. So I asked Doug if his team got better today.
“We don’t talk about, we don’t use the phrase that you used right there,” he said. “We talk about our discipline, our focus, our competitiveness, our strain, our conditioning that we have to win each day.”
“So did that happen today?” I asked.
“Yes, absolutely. I think the environment brings that out more so than a normal practice environment.”
When I asked what he was looking for tomorrow, Marrone said they wanted to correct mistakes but added “Be able to go on that field and obviously we keep adding more situations and keep getting better in situational football, which we’ve been trying to do in our camp.”
Throwing on time and with precision, Brady looked to be doing what every coach hopes players would do in practice: treat every rep like it was the Super Bowl. There were no plays off, no joking around, no simple dump offs. Each snap meant something. And that attitude was infectious for the rest of the Patriots.
Some of that looked to rub off on Blake Bortles. While not “Brady sharp” he kept moving forward and appeared to have a stronger sense of purpose in this practice than at home. Maybe it was the way this practice was set up, but being on the same field with Tom Brady has to elevate your focus and your game.
“We talked about it real quickly,” Marrone said of Bortles performance. “I thought calm, cool, different defense and things of that nature. I think we have to see where we are from that standpoint of being able to get open in a press-man and things of that nature. Then, just ball location. I thought for the most part, he seemed to have control.”
You could tell the Jaguars Head Coach was a little envious of what they’ve established in New England, and clearly wants to move in that direction in Jacksonville.
He explained it this way:
“I think you look at the teams that are successful in this league consistently, that’s the one thing. They’re always in shape, they’re always well-conditioned, they’re always very physical, they have a great discipline and they’re great in situational football and can execute. So I think you need those things to be a great football team. It’s not necessarily that this team was lacking, this team was this, or this is what happened before, so this is what you need now.”
When asked if there is a better test for the defense than going against the Patriots offense this early in training camp Marrone had a one-word answer with a smile.
And it’s no mistake the Jaguars are against the top team in the league this week. No doubt Tom Coughlin and Marrone were hoping they could show their current team what the top of the mountain looks like when nobody’s looking.
“I think when you look at their history, I think everyone understands where they are, what they’ve done. Like I said before, we have a great deal of respect for their coaches and their players. It’s a fact. I don’t think you really have to talk about it enough, I know everybody knows it. I really do. I think it gives us a good feel for where we are.”